This blogpost (/Message: Hello New Social App. Why Should I Use You?) got me thinking about online social networks; the ones I use and the ones I don’t. Actually, this is something I’ve been thinking about for a while since it seems just about everything on the web these days has a social networking aspect to it. Or has had one imposed upon it.
I have a five digit LiveJournal user number, and a low one at that. (There are currently 1,749,925 active journals.) On a sticky August night in 2000, a friend of mine, Henrik, introduced me to this online journaling thing that he had come across. LiveJournal was pretty small back then. If blogging and “Web 2.0” existed back then, I didn’t know of them. But the thing that made LJ different than just keeping a diary online, on your own personal webpage, was that it was easy to update and it had this…friends list. Other users could basically subscribe to have your entries and those of others “friends” collected on one page. If there were RSS feeds in 2000, I didn’t know of them either. Of course, Henrik was my first LJ friend. We had been email pals for a few years at that time. But who else did I know that would use this service? Really no one. But never fear, you could add interests to your profile and people with like interests could add you. Within a couple of days, two fellow writers (
) found me. And thus it went. To this day, there’s only two people (other than Eric) on my LJ friends list that I have met in person. And them I knew before I knew them on LJ.
Eventually, I became aware of MySpace. I came upon it early in its inception as well, but with nothing going on and no one to hold me there, it didn’t catch with me until a while later. Eventually, after MySpace “hit,” I figured it might be a good networking thing to make a profile. For a while, I kept up with some of the Groups on MySpace. They didn’t hold my interest. Most of the users are quite young. Young people are on LJ too, but it’s not quite the same dynamic. And the difference in dynamic boils down to the main page for each. Your main page on MySpace is your profile: a quick summary of who you are (often with a lot of junk included) and links to an anemic blog and groups. At LiveJournal, your main page is your journal. It’s all content and the style of the content. It wasn’t long before I found some of my highschool and frisbee friends on MySpace as well as a couple of interesting people from various groups. But MySpace couldn’t hold my interest. Keeping up with my friends’ updates was difficult. I had a journal elsewhere. I had webpages that where more fun to modify. I’m not much of a forum reader/contributor. After a few months, my MySpace moldered.
In the meantime, Web 2.0 occurred. Suddenly, everything had a “friends” attached. I have Pandora, FineTune and last.fm accounts. Do I bother with adding friends to these? No. I like music quite a bit, but these aren’t social opportunities for me. These are music opportunities. I am a user of del.icio.us and Digg, but again, the social aspects are pretty much lost on me. Why do I add links to them here? Why not.
Twitter was the next thing that I tried out. It took a while to catch on with me. Again, the emphasis is on content. Small chunks of content. Like LJ, it has a page of people that users “follow.” I can keep up with these people, but once again who is it that I would follow? I’m not one to go about inviting people to join social networking applications. I was incredibly embarrassed recently when StumbleUpon invited my email list instead of just showing me who was already using the service. I caught on to the Twitter streams of some local podcasters. I also follow some other celebrities and even a couple of people I know from LJ. The most interesting people I’ve added are some ultimate frisbee players from other states. The threads are thin, but it’s entertaining hearing what these people are doing and what they might link to. Why anyone would follow me (or “friend” me on LJ), I have no idea…
Lastly, there’s Facebook. Like MySpace, Facebook is profile centric, but yet not. When I surf over to Facebook, I see an aggregation of what my friends on Facebook have been up to: what blog entries they’ve made, what news article they’ve found interesting and posted, what pictures they’ve taken or been a part of, or what inane aspect of Facebook they’ve recently updated. The real fun of Facebook for me is that most of my friends on Facebook are people I actually know. Most of them are frisbee people, with some college, high school, and childhood friends. And even a couple of LJ friends. It’s interesting to see what their online personas are like. Or what silly shenanigans one can entice a generally stolid person into.